On 11 April 1987, the Italian writer Primo Levi fell to his death in the house where he was born. More than forty years after his rescue from a Nazi concentration camp, it now seemed that Levi had committed suicide. Levi’s account of Auschwitz, If This Is A Man is recognised as one of the essential books of humanity. No other work interrogates our recent moral history so incisively or conveys more profoundly the horror of the Nazi genocide. Written with great urgency to bear witness, the book put Levi among the foremost writers of our time.
Ian Thomson spent over ten years in Italy and elsewhere researching and writing about Levi. He traced the daughter of Levi’s German superior at Auschwitz along with scores of other witnesses. New light is shed on Levi’s recurring depressions and new information is unearthed regarding the writer’s premature death. A witty, resilient man, Levi had suffered dark moods long before he deported. The suicide of his grandfather, niney-nine years earlier, is chronicled for the first time. Thomson unravels the strands of a life caught between the factory and the typewriter, family and friends.
Ian Thomson is senior lecturer in creative non-fiction at the University of East Anglia
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